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Twickenham Studios to Close Down

It has been at the heart of the film industry for 99 years. But after playing host to productions from the gems of the silent era to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, Twickenham Film Studios is to close its doors.

A string of celebrated directors have filmed on its three stages, including Lord Attenborough, Roman Polanski and Steven Spielberg, whose recent film adaptation of War Horse was partly filmed there.

It famously housed The Beatles A Hard Days Night, their doomed Let it Be film, Michael Caine’s Alfie and The Italian Job, and more recently The Iron Lady and My Week With Marilyn starring Michelle Williams.

 

 

Twickenham is believed to have struggled to keep pace with rising rents in the area, and to compete with larger studios like Pinewood in Buckinghamshire and 3 Mills in the East End, which have larger stages and more advanced technology.

Gerald Krasner, the administrator handling the unwinding of Twickenham Film Studios Ltd for the restructuring company Begbies Traynor, said: “Twickenham Studios has debts at the moment that it can’t pay, but if we sell the property, everyone will get paid in full.

“It has lost money for a few years now, and the shareholders have already put in substantial monies but they are not prepared to put any more money in. It will not be retained as a film studio, because there is no way of making it pay as a film studio.”

Mr Krasner confirmed that all 17 members of staff at the studios would be made redundant within the next six months. He declined to say how much debt the company owed, or to how many creditors.

The last accounts posted by Twickenham Film Studios Ltd for the year ended March 2011 showed that the company made a loss of more than £400,000.

Although last year saw record levels of overseas investment in British film production, with War Horse, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo all filmed here, profits from those blockbuster films are channelled back into the American studios and production companies behind them, like Disney, Warner Brothers and Paramount, and not British film studios, whose running costs and rent are often higher than fees they can command for hire rates.

 

Twickenham Film Studios, circa 1930

 

Originally called St Margaret’s Studios and built on the site of a former ice-rink, Twickenham studios were established in 1913 by Dr Ralph Jupp, the founder of the London Film Company.

The same year, The House of Temperley, a silent film directed by Harold M. Shaw based on a novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, was the first film shot there.

In 1929, the studio was renamed Twickenham Film Studios, following the new ownership under Julius Hagen and Leslie Hiscott.

In 1935, a fire destroyed the studio building, taking with it the entire contents of the camera and sound departments and claiming 15 years of work by the studio’s stills photographer, Cyril Stanborough. Further destruction was caused by a bomb blast in 1939.

During the 70s and 80s, Twickenham Studios continued to do well so it was decided to expand the facilities.

The success has grown over the past few decades, with a new sound centre opening in 1980. More recently the studio has been involved in projects such as Shanghai, Sleuth and Elizabeth the Golden Age.

The old viewing theatre and wardrobe department was also used for recent film, My Week with Marilyn, based on diary entries of Colin Clark, who worked as an assistant director on the Prince and the Showgirl – where he met Marilyn Monroe.

Parts of the film were shot in Twickenham Studios in October of last year, as part of the two-month filming schedule, to recreate the original setting of the film at Pinewood Studios in 1956, where the Prince and the Showgirl was predominantly filmed.

Director Simon Curtis said: “I love Twickenham Studios. We loved the wardrobe and corridor outside the wardrobe at Twickenham and this is where Emma Watson filmed some scenes for the film.”

Joseph Bennett, an acclaimed film production designer who created the sets for Jude starring Kate Winslet at Twickenham, said that its closure was “a great shame”.

He said: “Working at Twickenham, you felt as if you were truly part of film history. It had an extraordinary atmosphere, so much more intimate than some of the larger, more corporate modern studios.”

The studios are owned by an overseas company, Shardub Enterprises, registered in the Dutch Antilles.

Its directors are Malek Akkad, an American film producer behind the Halloween horror films franchise, Bruce Grakal, an American lawyer, and Roger Sewell, an accountant.

None was available for comment.

 

 

 

 

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